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July 5, 2011

Physicians: Your Patients are Online… Why You Should Be, Too

When patients enter a doctor’s office with a health concern, chances are they’ve already researched that problem online before seeing a physician. Recent studies have found that Americans are turning to the internet now more than ever for information regarding their own health and healthcare.

We are living in a generation of “e-patients” who use the internet for medical information. It is important for physicians to understand when and why patient use the internet and to use this information to facilitate positive patient-physician relationships. Furthermore, the increased degree to which we rely on the internet opens many opportunities for doctors and physicians.

Sixty-six percent of adults have researched online for information about a specific disease or medical concern, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. That being said, when a physician communicates in the online world– via blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, etc.– , the physician positions his or herself as an expert on that topic to millions of Americans researching it.

For example, when a doctor posts an article about elbow pain to his or her blog, any user who searches such a condition could come across that article. Sharing his or her knowledge on elbow pain- or any other health condition or procedure- exponentially enhances the doctor’s credibility.

This study also found that 47 percent of American adults research a specific physician or health professional online. When a doctor’s name is searched online, the first several results will most likely be from doctor rating sites such as www.healthgrades.com, www.vitals.com, or www.ratemds.com, unless the doctor has a personal website or is part of a physicians’ group website.

These user-generated sites allow patients to rate their experiences with a doctor- everything from how long the patient had to wait to see the doctor, to the scent of the waiting room, to how compassionate the doctor was. This is a great way for others to see positive patient testimonials about a doctor. However, user-generated sites enable users to post almost anything: good or bad.

One patient may have had a bad day and unfavorably rated their experience with a doctor on one of these sites. Another user searching this doctor may come across that negative rating before seeing anything else about the doctor. A physician’s website will off-set any negative ratings that may exist.

OK, but social media and the internet are for younger folks, right? WRONG. More Americans of all ages are using the internet. According to the Pew Research Center study, eighty percent of Americans are using the internet. While 95 percent of Americans aged 19-34 use the internet, more than 58 percent of Americans aged 65-73 are also online.

The bottom line: studies show patients of all ages are online, making the internet a great platform for communicating with patients and capturing potential patients.

For more information about personalized physician or physician group’s websites or other services that P.S. Communications, Inc. offers, please explore www.pscommunicationsinc.com or contact Lisa Stafford at lisa@pscommunicationsinc.com | 630-212-1226 or Ann Pitcher at ann@pscommunicationsinc.com | 630-234-4150.

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